12 D@ys IV: みんなが待っている

SideM began life as one of those terrible tapping mobage in the same vein as the original Cinderella Girls or Million Live games. Officially, the genre was Dramatic Idol Training Card Game, but it wasn’t the even sort of fancy tapping game that you have to download an entire app for like Ensemble Stars. That all changed when LIVE ON ST@GE! got announced at 2nd.

At the time, it wasn’t announced what kind of game it’d be, but the expectation was that it’d likely be something more in the vein of Starlight Stage. As the march of time continued, closer to the end of the year, we got more and more information, some of which was a bit alarming. For instance, there was some rhythm gameplay shown but no tracks, very strange. Then there was the producer roundtable where the producers dropped the hint that the gameplay wasn’t going to be a huge challenge.

So what did we end up with? We have a (maybe too) simple rhythm game with a “production” minigame in the same vein as Ensemble Stars. A quick appraisal leaves us with the impression that it’s sort of a compromise between the other imas mobile games and the other popular women-targeted male idol mobage. I’m not entirely sure that’s a winning strategy, considering the type of gamers imas fans are likely to be.

Personally, I think LIVE ON ST@GE! hits the right spot for me. A good chunk of the displeasure with the game are about the scammy nature of a lot of aspects of the game, but I think that’s part of the reality of playing mobage. Further on that point is that I always have to remind myself that we don’t call them Scamco because it’s cute. This isn’t the first scam they’ve pulled and it’s not going to be the last. And I’d argue their other comparable mobage offerings, Starlight Stage and Theatre Days, are just where they happened to find the right balance of tricking you into thinking you’re not getting scammed. They don’t always get this right, even with imas.

As for the rhythm game, it’s a nice enough game to pick up and play for a few minutes when I’m bored at home or the office and I’ll even throw some money at it for gacha once in a while. That’s perfectly fine for me, because all I have to do is just look at Starlight Stage’s charts to get tired immediately. Instead, I kind of like that it’s simple enough that I don’t have to turn off all the effects and 3D and I can actually enjoy my idols’ performances. It’s a nice game that gives me a way to interact with my idols in a more concrete way than just clicking through bingo or something. I think if it were any more complex than it currently is, it’d step over the line to being frustrating.

A lot of this is rationalizing, sure, but I also feel like I’ve made my peace with it not being a hardcore gamer’s mobage. It’s the right game at the right time for my work-life situation at the moment. Of course, that doesn’t mean the game is good or that Scamco’s got the right strategy down for this, because you probably don’t want me as the target audience for anything where you’re trying to make money. And in that case, they probably don’t want the game to be in this state for very long, otherwise, it’s going to get tricky to get people to spend their yencoins.

12 D@ys III: 無敵の俺たち315

Back in the days before we dared to dream that SideM would ever get an anime anytime soon, I thought that an anime would probably be focused on Dramatic Stars and the other 315Pro units, while Jupiter would be treated as something kind of like the 765Pro Allstars. And to lead up to that, I thought it’d be nice and it’d make sense if they made something like a Jupiter-focused movie to tie together their new start at the end of Animas and how they ended up at 315Pro. Now, I didn’t really expect them to do something like that, so imagine my surprise when they announced Episode 0.

Something that had always struck me about the Jupiter when they began their transformation was that they tried their best to learn from what they’d seen in 765Pro, but Jupiter still seemed to be very alone. Episode 0 showed us one side of this. While Touma, Hokuto, and Shouta had each other and their crew, they were still lacking a lot of the support that the girls at 765Pro had. They didn’t have a Producer who they could trust to have their backs and support them.

But in addition to having P-san, the 765Pro Allstars had each other. They had friends and colleagues and rivals, working together and encouraging each other. It’s clear that Jupiter saw this and tried their best to recreate some of that magic on their own, but it’s something that they wouldn’t be able to get until they joined 315Pro. This all seems incredibly obvious after Episodes 0, 8, and 9 of the anime, but it’s been hinted at throughout mobage and the manga in smaller and less obvious interactions. One of my favourite chapters was about Touma teaching Mofumofuen how to cook for one of their variety shows.

In any case, it’s lovely to see that after all these years, Jupiter’s finally found a place that they can call home.

12 D@ys II: ステキな仲間だぜ

The first time I heard Nakamura Shuugo do the アイマスですよ!アイマス! call at SideM 1st, it almost brought me to tears. As I mentioned before, in its earliest days, SideM Ps had a lot of existential crises going on, like, is this thing even real? And of course, the big question with the introduction male idols was always going to be: Is this really Idolmaster?

This isn’t exactly a new question. With Ryo, the answer was easy: sure, since he walks, talks, and quacks like a girl, it’s not a problem. With Jupiter, things were not quite as rosy, but in time, everyone’s come to accept that they also belong to imas. But SideM gives us the most direct confrontation with that question. The response to the initial announcement at M@STERS OF IDOL WORLD!! 2014 is kind of fuzzy now that we’re so removed from it, but I seem to recall a lot of puzzlement and confusion, which is probably better than outright rejection. Luckily, that all changed once everyone got to see 1st. But if that wasn’t enough, that’s okay, because we had the imas series producers hammering over our heads that SideM is imas over the past year. For me, the most gratifying development in this vein was finally letting SideM in on the cross-series niconamas.

A lot of the other joint series promotions are pretty easy to segregate from one another. At worst, you’ve got Haruka, Uzuki, Mirai, and Teru all on one poster, but the goods for each series are all their own thing, or they run events separately, or whatever. That’s fine, everyone wants to focus on their on producing, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But in light of that, things like joint niconamas are one of the few things short of another M@STERS OF IDOL WORLD live that you can get to having a shared experience across the entire imas fanbase. It’s always been fun to see the 765, CG, and ML seiyuu sit around and shoot the shit and fuck around for an hour, so why not also have the SideM guys on?

To be honest, it’s been a worry of mine that the producers would decide to keep the guys and girls part of imas separate despite a large chunk of male Ps getting into imas. Luckily, that all ended with SideM joining the new year’s niconama and we’ve had a few more pan-imas niconamas since then. Now, the only thing that’s really left to complete the circle is to see everyone at the next M@STERS OF IDOL WORLD!!

12 D@ys I: 夢の向こうへ

SideM exists in kind of a unique space among its male idol cohort. As you might expect, it resembles imas more than it does other other male idol mobage, but that’s also down to its relatively early launch. I doubt that a game launching today would settle for the dramatic idol card game, nor would it really have gotten away with it if it weren’t for being imas.

Its relatively humble beginnings explain a lot of the existential crises that SideM Ps feel so often that it’s become a meme. Unlike its elder siblings, SideM was about guys, which added another dimension of uncertainty to the mix. Recall that the game itself launched months after a botched attempt, and then it ran for a few more months after that before the first significant announcement came to assure us that SideM wasn’t dead.

Scamco works in mysterious ways, so it’s easy to get jittery when they move slowly and we see all these other upstarts rush by. Like, wow, did you hear? Ensemble Stars got an anime announced already! And so it’s easy to be a little worried when the only thing to come out of SideM 1st were reveals of the new idol candidates. And we can repeat this process. New idol games coming out of nowhere and getting super popular. Meanwhile, I walk into an Animate and struggle to find the SideM section buried between massive rows of shelves for other idols. And so it’s been three years of alternating between excitement and doubt, but I think this was the year that we could really say that SideM is real without any nervous laughter.

This shift is can be seen as the same slow move from DRIVE A LIVE to Beyond the Dream as the song of choice for this new era of SideM. It’s really weird that Beyond the Dream is less than a year old given how ubiquitous it’s become in SideM. At first, it doesn’t seem like we had DRIVE A LIVE with us for very long, but it’s actually been two years since we first heard Jupiter and Dramatic Stars’ rendition of it. In fact, you could say it was with us much longer, having existed in a very preliminary form, unrecognizable in the announcement trailer shown at MOIW in February 2014. Wild.

Because it’s been used so extensively in everything having to do with SideM, it’s become inseparable. And yet, it sounds very distinct from a lot of other SideM and imas songs. It stands out in kind of the same way the older imas themes do, like The IDOLM@STER or Onegai Cinderella, and it feels more “classic”. It could just be the effects of the passage of time being felt, that as more and more music gets released, DRIVE A LIVE feels like it sort of fits in less and less. In that sense, Beyond the Dream sounds much closer to the modern imas anthems that we associate with each series.

Of course, when it was first announced that Beyond the Dream even existed, it was kind of strange, because, you know, we had DRIVE A LIVE. It’s weird to think back on because at the time, I was pretty convinced that Yozora o Kirameku Hoshi no You ni was going to be the song carrying the series forward, even if it was a Dramatic Stars and HiJo song. Only after 2nd live did Beyond the Dream make sense. Beyond the Dream marks a shift in SideM not only symbolically, but practically, by being the main theme for LIVE ON ST@GE!!.

But like all the other good old imas songs, DRIVE A LIVE will live on forever. On that note, it hasn’t even been one year of Beyond the Dream but in recent days, we’ve been hearing less of Beyond the Dream and more of a certain other song……

12 D@ys of @nime

Sometimes, throughout the ye@r, I get the urge to write something to put on my blog @nd then shelve it for 12 d@ys, since it’s the only time I’ve truly required myself to write something @nd I don’t w@nt to blow @ll of my ide@s during the ye@r just to come up short @t the l@st minute. Sometimes, I press @he@d @nyw@y @nd post things, but usu@lly, I keep interesting things I’ve seen in the b@ck of my pocket to t@lk @bout @t the end of the ye@r. This ye@r is the first ye@r th@t @ppro@ch kind of b@ckfired on me, since I re@lized th@t when I w@s coming up with my list of things to t@lk @bout this ye@r, I re@lly only w@nted to t@lk @bout one thing. @nd so, I’ve decided to toss out my pocketed items to use for some other time @nd inste@d, t@lk @bout the only thing th@t m@ttered this ye@r.